The loft begins to take shape

Week 37 – Joe

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this renovation has been getting to create spaces that will be unique, interesting, or different.  We have chosen to live in old houses with character because Amy and I are wired to crave aesthetically interesting and personalized spaces.  I think everyone enjoys finding a secret space, an unexpected nook, or unusual features frequently found in old houses.  The 2nd floor of our new house (and even an area of the 1st floor) provided us with an almost blank slate with which to try to create something personalized and unique.  For instance, our upstairs bathroom will have a built-in window bench, our staircase will have a hidden play space underneath, all the 2nd floor rooms will have interesting ceiling angles and unexpected nooks, and our 1st floor bathroom closet will have four stairs to nowhere that will serve as a reminder of what once was there but also provide us with a unique way to reach higher shelves.

Another unique area we are excited about is the top of the new stairs.  The area we are calling a “loft” is located above the master bedroom and looks out over the 2nd floor common area.  This is a bonus space that we wanted to utilize in a creative way.

An old picture, but this gives you the general idea of the view from the landing of the stairs
An old picture, but this gives you the general idea of the view from the landing of the stairs

The ceiling peak is at 15 feet and the new window draws your eye up to the tallest part of the house.  The loft above the master bedroom is directly opposite that window.  From the loft you can look out and see all the way down the stairs and even to the 1st floor.  We knew that we wanted to use that space as a loft that would be accessed by a ladder, but it was pretty far down on our list of jobs to address.  Well, we are finally at that item on our list.

Last week I cleaned out the debris and pulled up the insulation so that we could put sister joists along side the existing ceiling 2x4s.  The sister joists are 2x6s.  On top of the new joists we screwed down 3/4″ plywood.  We can now walk (or crawl) around up there without the floor (or master bedroom ceiling) flexing.  In addition we created a 16″ knee-wall.  This gives us a flat surface for outlets, baseboards, and low storage.

Here is what the loft looked like before:


And here is where we are now:

Checking out the new loft space
Checking out the new loft space

It may not look like much from this perspective, but it really feels good up there.  The footprint of the loft is now about 8’x14′ and I can stand up in the center if I dip my head just a little.  To get rid of the cave-like feel at the very end of the loft we are going to install a window that approximately matches the one in the front gable seen in this picture here:

Looking towards the front of the house and the entrance to the loft
Looking towards the front of the house and the entrance to the loft.  (This picture makes the loft space look smaller than it really is)

We want this area to be a cozy hideaway to read, nap, or build Lego castles.  We will eventually install carpet (the only place in the whole house) and fill the space with throw pillows, books, and small toys.  We think it will be a great place to escape and chill.

One additional small bit of good news this week was that our architect agreed that we would not need any collar ties in the loft space or in the upstairs commons area with the 15′ ceiling.  Collar ties are horizontal beams that add structural support to the roof…  like these:

Old collar ties
Old collar ties

All those weak points in the ceiling joists that used to require addition support from the collar ties are now supported by the new walls, framing, blocking, and structural support.  It’s a very small aesthetic thing, but it means that there will not be anything to obstruct the views or open feel of the high ceiling.

We have several design ideas related to the loft that we are kicking around right now.  One thing we would like to do is to build a bookshelf around the new window on the back wall.  Something a lot like this:

Another big consideration…  How do we get up there?  We have a few ideas and our opinion changes every day.  One creative option would be to create a steep bookshelf staircase.  Something like this…

The problem with that idea is that it would take up a lot space right at the top of the stairs and drastically alter the openness that exists at the top of the stairs right now.  Also, I’m not really sure we could even fit this in the allotted space.  It would need to be a very steep stair case.

Another interesting possibility would be to use a library ladder.

This is a little easier to climb than a straight-up ladder, but once again takes up valuable space in the common area and doesn’t leave any space to utilize underneath it.

The most space-saving possibility would be to just use a vertical ladder.  We like this one:

It takes up the least amount of space but also creates the most difficult way to get up to the loft.  We have also jokingly talked about using a rope net, a rock climbing wall, or just a rope with knots.

The third design choice we will eventually need to make is the railing for the loft space. Right now we are thinking something that provides the most safety with the least amount of visual obstruction.  Maybe something like this?

We have time to make these decisions.  Right now our efforts are focused on finishing all work related to framing and electrical.  We have the week off, so we are making good progress!

More updates on those projects coming soon…

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